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Constructing a professional ethos: The role of identity in graduate student writing development

Heather Camp, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation brings together sociocultural research on development and rhetorical revisionist scholarship on ethos construction to study how graduate students develop as disciplinary writers. I argue that graduate writing development be understood as the growing ability to appropriate new discourses in socially-meaningful ways, the increased capacity to integrate private and public in ways that satisfy one's self and one's academic community. I contend that contemporary understandings of ethos construction describe the process through which writers make their commitments relevant and valuable to a broader disciplinary audience. To animate these claims, I present five case studies of graduate writers learning to write within discourses related to the field of Composition and Rhetoric. I track four graduate student writers who experienced conflicts between their identities and disciplinary discourse, two of whom were stymied by this conflict, struggling to construct an ethos that could advance their disciplinary writing, and two of whom productively engaged this conflict, fashioning an ethos that facilitated disciplinary participation. I also follow a fifth student, discussing his early experiences in Composition and Rhetoric as well as the subsequent professional development writing he completed during the first half of his doctoral program. I argue that his experience indicates that translating personal pursuits into disciplinary contributions is an important, ongoing facet of graduate writing development. Taken together, these case studies shed light on the forces that help and hurt graduate students as they attempt to construct an ethos suitable for disciplinary writing. Ultimately, they inform the pedagogical recommendations I propose at the conclusion of the dissertation, recommendations designed to help graduate faculty support the identity and writing development of the students they teach. ^

Subject Area

Education, Language and Literature|Language, Rhetoric and Composition

Recommended Citation

Camp, Heather, "Constructing a professional ethos: The role of identity in graduate student writing development" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3284033.